In August 2007 I finished my second of three summers of classes at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. I was studying for a Ph.D. in Catholic Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. The lectures, discussions, and in-class assignments were over for the summer and I left for home in Cleveland with intervening coursework to be completed during the 2007-08 academic year. For EDUC 704, History, Mission, and Practice of Catholic Education, my remaining assignment was to write an up-to-date history of a Catholic educational institution. In EDUC 707, Contemporary Issues in Catholic Educational Policy, the two remaining assignments entailed writing an action plan taken from the directives of United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) documents on education, and the second, incorporating Catholic teaching into a discipline of academia. The remaining assignments from EDUC 712, Fiscal Issues and Policy in Education included interviewing three finance-related professionals and formulating a case statement and accompanying a $300,000 budget proposal over three years to a foundation whose aims are aligned to the proposal. If at the end of three years time the agreed-upon objectives have been met by the group, the fictitious foundation would award a $3 million grant endowment to the group for the purpose of furthering their mission.
The Saint Joseph Christian Life Center
After I moved back to the Cleveland area from Hawai'i in the summer of 2007, I felt a real need to go on retreat. A logical place to go was the Saint Joseph Christian Life Center on Lake Shore Boulevard, just a couple miles away from where I was raised. I had known that The Center had offered mid-life retreats, such as one from 1998 titled Mid-Life Directions Workshop, a four-day retreat program, running during the day for both those far away and the local population. Programming, meals, and accommodations ran about $200. The workshop integrated Christian spirituality and developmental psychology (Cleveland Newspaper Index, 1998).
After a tumultuous year which included the death of my father, moving, and resigning from my job, I was ripe to “enter the center,” a place that had renewed and refreshed so many lives on the shores of Lake Erie, bordering Cleveland and Euclid. A spiritual oasis for 60 years, the Saint Joseph Christian Life Center had welcomed thousands of people searching for deeper meaning in their lives (Erikson, 2007). One day in August, after returning from Washington D.C., I went to the Euclid Public Library. I went to the shelves of the periodicals and found myself picking up the Catholic Universe Bulletin, the Diocese of Cleveland’s bi-monthly newspaper. At the top of the front page was the headline, “St. Joseph Christian Life Center to close” (Erikson, 2007). Another article I saw read, “A spiritual retreat center alongside Lake Erie will be closed by the Cleveland Catholic Diocese because it costs too much to run” (“Cleveland Diocese,” 2007). I was shocked. I had attended a few retreats there through the years. I’d pay a visit to its bookstore during visits home from working abroad and would walk its’ finely-manicured grounds overlooking Lake Erie, especially at sunset and watch the sun dip into the lake. My sister had met her future husband on a Search retreat at The Center while in high school. Today, they have a family of 4 beautiful children. My mother said she had gone on a retreat at The Center some years ago. Of course, being away from home for so long, I had simply taken for granted the ongoing life of the Christian Life Center. I had not considered that its existence was in such a fragile financial state for so long a time, not to mention all the necessary repairs needed on the building to bring it up to speed.
And so it was, in my time of need to retreat for a short time before re-entering life back in my hometown, I did not know where to go. I could go camping in the forest and I’m sure God would speak to me in some way, but I had just finished doing that. I knew that my parish priests were available, and this was comforting. One-on-one counseling is necessary from time to time, and I was availing myself of that through dialoguing with priests. But at the moment, I really needed to sit down with others like me and share with them about how they were handling their own passages through mid-life, the death of a parent, losing a job, etc. I didn’t want anything haphazard either, or piecemeal. The people who administer, plan, organize and lead retreats at The St. Joseph Christian Life Center are professionals. It is what they do. They made dealing with some of life’s struggles that much easier by the varied programs they offered. The Center had always been open for business. I was sorry to see that the sacred place was closing its doors for all-time.
With regard to my coursework at CUA, The Saint Joseph Christian Life Center which had helped to renew so many lives in the past six decades seemed a good fit for my “history of a Catholic organization” assignment. As I began to formulate my responses to my other course assignments in my three classes, the realization began to dawn on me of the feasibility of consolidating all these assignments into one overall proposal, given in separate parts. I felt compelled to proceed in this manner. Although this class assignment could certainly be fictitious, it seems much more worthwhile, fun, and interesting to gear it towards a real-life situation. It is my hope that one day it will be considered a reasonable proposition. There is a need for the Center’s continued programming, and I hope to demonstrate that.
Note: Reprinted from 2007. The Saint Joseph Christian Life Center was razed years ago. The Diocese of Cleveland no longer has a stand-alone, dedicated retreat center on the east side of which I know. There is a Jesuit retreat center on the west side.